After a lengthy discussion on Monday night, the Indianola Board of Aldermen voted 3-1 to accept the recommendations made by Judge Kuykendall Horne-Murry with regard to hiring persons to fill four key positions in the forthcoming Indianola Drug Court.
Horne-Murry and Dr. Adrian Brown, PhD, who serves as administrator for the grant, advocated for Carver Randle Jr., to be hired as the full-time drug court coordinator and Alisha Thomas, who is currently serving as the interim city prosecutor, to come on board as the drug court prosecutor.
Thomas was also officially hired as the city prosecutor as well.
In addition, they proposed that Elizabeth Davis be appointed as the drug court public defender and that Horne-Murry serve as the judge for the drug court. Alderman Sam Brock stated a concern regarding the judge’s salary. “This seems like double dipping,” he said.
Rosenthal attempted to explain that the municipal court judge’s position and the drug court judge’s position were part-time, independent of each other and do not overlap, so it is not considered double dipping.
He further indicated that a state and national panel that had approved the budget and appointments had reviewed the matter and saw no conflict of interests.
Horne-Murry and Brown have appeared before the city leaders multiple times prior with reference to the court since applying for the grant in April of 2019. Monday night’s lengthy dialogue and subsequent voting outcome apparently resulted from questions and concerns raised by Alderman Marvin Elder and Brock’s contention.
Horne-Murry and Brown had reportedly submitted a revised budget to the city leaders for their review and Elder asked for a copy of the original April 2019 budget that the leaders approved to make a comparison. “Normally when we deal with a budget, it comes back before us just in case we have any questions,” he said.
Neither of the city leaders or the court representatives had their copy of the original budget at hand. Mayor Steve Rosenthal asked Horne-Murry if there were any changes that affected the city’s allocation and she said there was not.
Yet insistent, Elder said, “Well, anything that’s been changed, Mayor and Board from April, by the city being involved, we still need to take under consideration what the original budget was compared to what the amendment budget is tonight… that’s all I’m saying.”
Addressing Brown, Rosenthal asked him to elaborate on the changes since he was instrumental in establishing the budget. Brown offered up some information, but acknowledged that he did not come fully prepared to discuss the original budget.
Elder then questioned if the positions were properly advertised, if deadlines were set and who was responsible for reviewing the applications. Rosenthal explained the process to him and said that per usual the board would simply review the recommendations of the department heads.
Elder maintained that he was not against the appointments or the court, but wanted to insure transparency. “We got to stay legal with this cause we’re dealing with money,” he said.
Aldermen Darrell Simpson and Ruben Woods also had questions. “The amount of money did not change, is that correct?” asked Simpson. Brown said it did not. Woods asked if the proposed positions were being paid strictly from the grant with no costs to the city and Horne-Murry affirmed that those positions would be paid from the acquired state and federal funds.
Elder also voiced concern over the number of job responsibilities assigned to the drug court coordinator position. “Because one individual can’t do all of this alone. We got to have a check and balance,” he said.
Elder advocated for an extra session to discuss the budget. “I feel really that we should have a work session to make sure all of us on the same page so when we go out before the public we’re singing the same tune. We still supporting what you trying to do. Nothing negative being said.”
Elder eventually made a motion to hold a work session and that was seconded by Brock; however, Woods and Simpson stated that they were at peace with the matter and didn’t see a need for an additional session. Simpson said that he would vote no and Woods indicated that he would vote for it if Elder and Brock wanted it, but he would not attend.
No further action was taken with regard to that, so after the work session idea failed, Elder voiced several concerns to Brown and Horne-Murry that he still wanted answered, including how persons would be transported when there was a need to make an arrest, what would be the office hours, and how would the drug testing be done.
Brown then volunteered to go and get a copy of the original budget and return with responses to Elder’s concerns before the end of Monday’s session.
Brown and Horne-Murry returned a little later, read from the original budget and answered the aforementioned concerns.
Elder then made the motion to accept the court recommendations at the proposed salaries. The measure passed with Brock as the lone no vote. Alderman Gary Fratesi was absent.